Ohio State Football: Conference Expansion Could Put OSU-UM in Same Division

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Ohio State Football: Conference Expansion Could Put OSU-UM in Same Division
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

When Maryland and Rutgers officially join the Big Ten in the summer of 2014, there is a chance it could shake up college football’s greatest rivalry.

With the new additions, league officials and the 14 members of the conference will be forced to look at how the two divisions are aligned.

As it stands now, Ohio State and Michigan play in separate divisions. The two teams were slotted in opposite divisions to maintain a competitive balance in the league when Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten in 2011.

Back then, fans on both sides of the rivalry were nervous that "The Game" would be moving from its sacred spot at the end of each team’s schedule to October, but the protected matchup between these two remained in its customary November slot.

With Maryland and Rutgers joining the conference, though, more change to this rivalry could be on the horizon.

According to Brian Bennett of ESPN.com, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is in favor of the Buckeyes and the Wolverines playing in the same division.

"I kind of lean toward having us in the same division," he said. "But I'm open to keeping it as it is, based on what my colleagues might share."

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Having Ohio State and Michigan in the same division would eliminate the two rivals from meeting in the conference title game.

If the conference decides to put Michigan and Ohio State in the same division, it would eliminate the possibility of a future OSU-UM Big Ten title game, which was something the league was excited about back in 2011.

Of course, keeping Michigan in the Legends division would likely force the Big Ten's new eastern conference members to undertake an enormous amount of travel in 2014 and beyond.

The most important factors in determining the new division alignments will be maintaining competitive balance, upholding traditional rivalries and being mindful of the growing geographical footprint in the conference.

With all those factors in mind, it makes sense to move Ohio State and Michigan into the same division.

If the Big Ten comes to its senses and renames the divisions "East" and "West" as opposed to "Legends" and "Leaders," here's how the conference could break down:

 

East

Ohio State
Michigan
Maryland
Penn State
Purdue 
Rutgers
Indiana

 

West

Nebraska
Wisconsin
Michigan State
Iowa
Minnesota
Northwestern
Illinois

Again, this would eliminate the possibility of Ohio State and Michigan meeting in the Big Ten title game, but in most years, the season finale could determine who represents the East in the title game if the two continue their upward trend.

What are your thoughts? Do you want to see Ohio State and Michigan in the same division, or do you like having the possibility of these two rivals meeting up in the Big Ten title game? 

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Follow David on Twitter @davidreg412

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